Communication and media response to the Westminster attack

Best practice communication was critical to allaying fear in the immediate response to the Westminster attacks but sensationalist media coverage needs to be challenged.

Public relations students at Newcastle University are studying crisis communications this semester.

They’ve had several sessions of theory. It’s my turn on Friday to share a real life case study.

In London today helicopters are flying back and forth overhead. Sirens blare around the capital.

There was a terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge and at the Palace of Westminster in London yesterday. Five people, including a police officer, are dead and 40 people are injured.

In this deck I’ve looked at the response from London’s Mayor, the police, journalists, media, the government, the public, and others.

I’ve included user generated comment from social networks including some examples of hate and propaganda that you may find disturbing.

The deck tells the story of how crisis situations have unfolded in media over the last 40 years, as media has changed.

Today there are no deadlines. News is published directly to the internet.

The attack in London yesterday saw a coordinated response between agencies including the Metropolitan Police, the Mayor’s office, and the Prime Minister’s office.

It was critical to allay fear in the City and enable the police to manage the ongoing investigation of this terrible tragedy. This included calls for any footage and imagery captured to be supplied to the police before media.

Despite this it is notable how sensationalist the response of the news media is to the attack, effectively providing a free platform to terrorism. This approach needs consideration and scrutiny.

In the meantime thank you to the emergency services, NHS staff and all the professional communicators involved in the incident response.

Thumbnail image by Suhaib Saqib (@SuhaibSaqib1) via Twitter with thanks.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.


  1. Great work Stephen, I’ve taken the liberty of sharing your post (and slide deck) on the “Crisis Management in Social Media” Group on LinkedIn. I trust this ok?

  2. I saw this just before meeting some people to chat about how PR could impact on their roles, and it formed a great way to highlight the pace of change and new ways we have to find to share information. It was also a moving reminder of the day. Many thanks from me (and them).

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